SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A trio of friends created a new community giving model in San Francisco that has fed nearly three million people and helped save several hundred small businesses since the pandemic began.
In one day, Lenore Estrada, owner of Three Babes Bakeshop, went from 33 employees to six, while San Francisco had sheltered two years ago.
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“It was really devastating to fire everyone,” Estrada said.
How could small businesses like his survive the pandemic?
She brainstormed with friends Jacob Bindman and Jenais Zarlin on how they could help others.
“How could we distribute the product they already had in the cold room? Bindman asked.
Zarlin added, “The core of the idea was how do you create this opportunity to prevent small businesses from falling free into a state of emergency?”
The trio launched SF New Deal in the spring of 2020, with a $1 million gift Estrada received in seed capital.
She explained, “The first thing we decided to do was just buy food from small businesses here in San Francisco and then deliver it to food insecure people.”
The non-profit quickly exploded to feed 55,000 people a week at its peak.
In two years, they’ve served everyone from the elderly to quarantined COVID patients to underserved Humanmade people training for entry-level manufacturing jobs.
Humanmade Executive Director Ryan Spurlock said, “Partnering with SF New Deal has transformed our attendees’ ability to follow the program and not have to wonder where their next meal will come from.”
As of February 2022, SF New Deal has distributed nearly $33 million in government funds and private donations to more than 600 businesses.
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Of these, more than 200 restaurants and food businesses served nearly three million meals.
The partnership kept layoffs open and spared at Kristin Houk’s three Bayview restaurants, Tato, All Good Pizza and Cafe Alma.
“In those first few months, probably 80% of what we were doing was New Deal,” Houk said.
And she’s grateful to New Deal’s trio of co-founders for their big hearts: Bindman, who serves as director of programs, Zarlin, who serves as director of impact, and Estrada, who serves as chairman of the board.
“They go out, they do the work, they stay up all night, they promise to make sure everyone has a meal if they have to do it themselves, they will. That’s what they are,” Houk said.
The New Deal also provided debt relief to another 400 small businesses.
“We’ve been able to work with laundry mats, convenience stores, preschools, and all types of small businesses,” Bindman said.
Today, the nonprofit is expanding its mission to support the city’s small businesses for the long term and help break down the barriers they need to succeed.
SF New Deal is self-funding a pilot project offering English and Spanish lessons.
“So now we’re looking to build on the work that we’re doing,” Zarlin said.
“Our goal has always been to support the entire small business ecosystem,” Estrada said.
So for creating a new model of community care through SF New Deal, this week’s Bay Area Jefferson Prize goes to Jacob Bindman, Lenore Estrada and Jenais Zarlin.
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Estrada’s bakery took no funds from SF New Deal.